Surge in Coronavirus Cases Hits Illinois Nursing Homes

This new spike in coronavirus cases in Illinois is once again raising concerns about the most vulnerable in our nursing homes

A health worker dressed in personal protective equipment conducts a test.

As coronavirus cases surge across Illinois, cases and deaths are once again on the rise in nursing homes.

Illinois Department of Public Health numbers show there were 1,445 coronavirus cases reported last week in long term care facilities in Illinois, up from 1,127 the previous week and 625 the week before that, October 9.

Joseph Pietrie, Sr. is one of those recent cases.

Pietrie Sr., 76 of Northlake, has been living at The Pearl of Rolling Meadows since July, according to his wife of 55 years, Sheila Pietrie. Coronavirus restrictions have meant limited contact. “We are a team and the team falls apart if you can't contact each other,” Sheila said.

On October 6, Sheila and the couple’s son, Joseph Pietrie, Jr., picked up Joseph Sr. for a doctor’s appointment and the family said he was not wearing a mask when a staff member brought him outside.

“It was very surprising and when we asked him about it, well, they kind of said he doesn't enjoy wearing it. But his room is next to the quarantine area for COVID-19,” Joseph Pietrie Jr. said.

Four days later, Pietrie Sr. tested positive for coronavirus. According to The Pearl of Rolling Meadows administrators, 89 residents and 28 staff members have tested positive over the past several weeks.

“Comprehensive precautions to contain the current outbreak are in place," spokesperson Lyndsay Czwornog said in a statement. She also said that “masks are required” for staff and residents and the facility has “sufficient PPE.”

“Nursing homes are definitely a reflection of the community in which they are located, so when cases rise in the community, so do cases in nursing homes,” said Pat Comstock, COVID-19 Response Director for the Health Care Council of Illinois, which represents more than 300 nursing homes in the state.

Comstock said after the outbreak of coronavirus cases in nursing homes in the Spring, cases had gone back down and long term care facilities are better prepared now.

“Since March, we have evolved dramatically in terms of testing, of resident’s testing, and employees. We now know the kinds of infection control protocols that must be followed and the PPE that is required,” Comstock said.

Yet, deaths in long term care facilities due to coronavirus are on the rise too. IDPH numbers show 135 deaths were reported last week, up from 96 and 95 the two previous weeks.

As the number of cases rise at The Pearl of Rolling Meadows, the Pietrie family wonders if more can be done.

“My greatest concern is I don't believe that the measures that they're taking are working,” Pietrie Jr. Said.

Comstock said we all have a stake in protecting the most vulnerable by wearing masks and social distancing.

“That's what people can do very proactively to control the spread in the community and then that helps us,” Comstock said.

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